It was unnerving to see this many people out here on a Friday, and I’d bet that on the weekends, it would be even worse.
Maybe lots of people were already out of school, which might have been what happened earlier in the week at Millard Falls. After all, we passed by one parked car saying something about someone graduating from Cerritos High 2020…
Having done a waterfall hike earlier in the week and being unpleasantly surprised by how many people were hiking to Millard Falls on a weekday, I was debating about going to Bonita Falls or Dark Canyon Falls.
Unfortunately with the Dark Canyon Falls, I learned yesterday that there was a MYLF (Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog) closure which was similar to that of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls situation.
So at the very last minute, we decided to go for Bonita Falls.
I thought that I always had this hike as a trump card for social distancing since I knew that the parking situation was a bit more plentiful and the hike itself had lots of social distancing opportunities until you get into the canyon with the falls.
And so by 10:20am, we finally started to leave the house and head out towards Lytle Creek.
The drive out there was for the most part uneventful as we were going at a pretty good clip as we headed up the 57 and then the 210 east until we got to the I-15 north.
Eventually, we got off Sierra Ave and then followed the road all the way towards the familiar pullouts getting us closest to the Bonita Falls hike and scramble.
However, we didn’t count on seeing so many cars parked alongside the pullouts. In fact, the usual pullout spots were completely full!
In all the years that we’ve hiked to Bonita Falls, we had never seen it this busy here before. But from what we could tell, lots of people were playing in Lytle Creek which looked like it had quite a bit of volume.
Eventually after making a U-turn shortly past the private campground (Bonita Ranch Campground) near the wash that we were supposed to scramble on to get to Bonita Falls, we ultimately found parking a bit further down the road at 11:25am.
I figured the walk back to the usual spot to get started wasn’t that bad (it could’ve been worse like at Sturtevant Falls) as it was probably no more than another 1/4-mile extra.
That said, our thoughts then turned to the social distancing issue as we totally didn’t expect there to be this many people around Lytle Creek let alone doing the Bonita Falls hike.
It was unnerving to see this many people out here on a Friday, and I’d bet that on the weekends, it would be even worse.
Maybe lots of people were already out of school, which might have been what happened earlier in the week at Millard Falls. After all, we passed by one parked car saying something about someone graduating from Cerritos High 2020.
Plus, we saw lots of people (mostly notably Hispanic) that seemed to be in those teenaged or even 20-something years.
Whatever the case, we had considered just taking off and not dealing with the social distancing problem. But then, Julie said that we had driven all the way out this way already so we mind as well do it.
And ultimately, that line of reasoning prevailed. So we geared up and pressed forward at 11:35am.
Lots of parked cars didn’t have National Forest Day Passes, and I figured that the USDA Forest Service in San Bernardino probably didn’t really care to enforce it. After all, they seemed to let the graffiti problem go over the years in this area.
They really should consider enforcing the parking rules and collecting fees so the cost of clean-up could offset the irresponsible behavior that I know plagued this area.
The signs placed on the portapotties and barricades urging visitors to pack out what they pack in didn’t seem to be working.
The expected graffiti, loud music, and crowds were things that Julie and I weren’t looking forward to about this hike. That said, the chance to play in Lytle Creek, which was flowing quite well, really excited Tahia.
So at first, we walked along part of the road alongside lots of parked cars. However, we then saw that there was an opportunity to descend to a spot where there was a shallow crossing of Lytle Creek.
We ultimately took that descent and crossing, then scrambled our way further towards the wash that I knew was familiar to us.
We passed by quite a few spots where large families and groups were gathered in certain spots along Lytle Creek, and it didn’t take long for us to figure out that we actually hadn’t crossed the main part of Lytle Creek yet.
The places where the families had set up camp looked like lots of fun. However, there was definitely no social distancing going on, and hardly anyone had facial masks on.
We noticed that most of the families along Lytle Creek were Hispanic, but we also saw that statistically most of the COVID-19 spread were within the black and Hispanic population. So seeing this didn’t help ease our COVID-19 social distancing anxieties.
Our scrambling got a bit rougher until we reached a spot where we either had to get our feet wet or we kept going alongside Lytle Creek. Yet, we still hadn’t gotten to the familiar start of the scramble yet.
Eventually, we crossed back another shallow part of Lytle Creek and then reached an even wider crossing of Lytle Creek where quite a few people were playing. However, this wider crossing also featured some kind of makeshift rock stack bridge.
I don’t know who made it, but it actually looked substantial enough to be able to cross it without ruining our hiking boots. Well, I brought a high top hiking boot, but Julie wore Keens and Tahia was hiking in Crocs.
Ultimately, I managed to get across Lytle Creek without ruining my footwear due to its Gore-tex property. However, Julie changed her shoes and Tahia didn’t care with her Crocs.
Once we got to the other end of the Lytle Creek crossing, we were finally in the familiar bouldery wash.
At first, the hike in the bouldery wash was slow going as we saw numerous groups of hikers in the middle of the wash going in either direction.
Julie eventually took a break to change out her shoes back into something more suitable for the conditions.
Then, we hiked towards the wall of the large wash, where we knew there would be tons of graffiti, but we also knew that the hiking would be a bit less bouldery.
Sure enough, the walk went a bit faster, and we even noticed a scramble up to a side dry fall that I’d imagine would be a secondary waterfall earlier in the year.
Unfortunately, this spot was really trashed with a massive spray-painted wall of graffiti and litter.
The boulder wash hike continued with relatively little further contact with other people as most others hiked in the middle of the wash or on what appeared to be a different trail towards the other side of the wash.
The shade was pretty minimal so it was quite hot on this day even though the forecast had called for cooler temperatures.
While the weather made us sweat, we also took comfort in the fact that perhaps the COVID-19 virus wouldn’t survive under such temperatures and UV exposure.
However, as we got closer to the canyon we were supposed to ascend to get up to Bonita Falls, we saw Bonita Creek in the bouldery wash, and we saw more people playing in the water there.
That got Tahia to want to walk in the stream to cool off, but at this point, we decided it was time to put on our facial masks again (as most of the other people clearly were not doing that).
Sure enough, social distancing pretty much went out the window as we climbed up into the canyon containing Bonita Falls, especially after we passed the familiar graffiti-laced sign.
Clearly, this sign was neglected to the point that it no longer served any useful purpose other than to serve as a landmark to those in the know.
Shortly after the sign, there was a couple chilling out in a shaded area playing loud music. Annoying as it was that people have to bring the ghetto to Nature like a cancer, we just kept going.
There was actually quite a bit of water on Bonita Creek, and as one point, Julie and Tahia took a wrong path and scrambled up an intermediate cascade.
I actually backtracked and found that there was a much easier path to the left side of the intermediate cascade.
Ultimately by about 12:30pm, we finally made it up to the familiar base of Bonita Falls.
Not surprisingly, there were lots of people playing in the water at the plunge pool of the waterfall. Also not surprisingly, there was still the loads of graffiti.
So we spent a few minutes checking out the rather festive scene at the bottom of Bonita Falls while also doing our usual picture-taking.
Then, at about 12:45pm, we took a break a little further downstream from the commotion for a bit of an apple and water break.
Tahia wanted both Julie and I to play in the water with her, and I think Julie obliged. However, I didn’t have a change of shoes, and instead, I went up a scrambling path to get up to the caves that I knew were here.
I was actually quite surprised that of all the people that visited Bonita Falls on this day, no one bothered to scramble up the path I was about to take.
In fact, there was one guy who tried to scramble up a steep wall closer to the waterfall and ultimately decided it was too steep for him.
So at 12:55pm, I went up to the first couple of caves that I had seen before. Perhaps depressingly but not surprisingly, there seemed to be even more graffiti up here than when I first when up here back in 2011.
There was even a Target bag that I’m betting was loaded with dirty diapers, but there’s no way I was going to touch that.
I guess the wilderness ethics of packing it in and packing it out clearly weren’t adhered to with people who come to Bonita Falls, if the graffiti was any indication.
Then, I scrambled out towards the cliff edge where I got a nice contextual look at the Bonita Falls with people down at the bottom for a sense of scale.
I still had to be careful not to get too close to the steeper parts of the cliff, but it was clear to me that Bonita Falls seemed to be a lot taller than I had given credit for when seen from this perspective.
While I had largely reported Ann Marie Brown’s 90ft figure in her books (which she said came from a local San Bernardino newspaper), by my estimation, the waterfall’s height might be closer to 150ft.
Of course, there might be more in the way of the upper tiers, but there was no need to get all the way up there. Besides, the scramble I was on appeared to hit an impasse with a wall higher up.
So after having my fill of this elevated spot, I then started heading back down when I started to notice that there was yet a third cave.
This particular cave was a bit harder to reach and I was content with just peering into it without climbing its ledge. But clearly with the amount of graffiti around it, people have also managed to get up there and tag the hell out of it.
So with that, I descended back down to rejoin Julie and Tahia at around 1:15pm. Much to my surprise, I was the only person up by the caves, and it actually felt quite nice to have a place to myself while everyone else was crowding down below.
Shortly thereafter, all of us headed back down and out towards the wash. We had to wait because there were quite a few families going up, and it wasn’t wise to wait in the narrower spots where it was still shaded and social distancing wasn’t possible.
But for the most part, the hike back down out of the canyon was uneventful, and a bit of a relief since we knew that we could maintain social distance in the wash.
On the way back, Tahia decided to hike downstream in the wash where Bonita Creek was still above ground. She did this until most of the water disappeared beneath the boulders and gravel.
Julie and I stayed along the canyon walls, and eventually Tahia joined us when there was no more water to walk in while in the wash.
There were still lots of other groups heading back up towards Bonita Falls, including a large group of black females playing rap music in a boom box.
I guess there will always be people who can’t just let Nature’s sounds prevail and have to fill it with ghetto sounds, and I guess that’s why local waterfalls can be nice on the one hand, but they’re also not relaxing.
Julie told me that she gets mad when she sees the graffiti in Nature, but without proper enforcement and fees, I can’t foresee this stopping. Perhaps that’s why we tend to enjoy our waterfalling experiences abroad these days, but with COVID-19, that’s not possible.
I do have mental health concerns if we keep losing nice places as a result of irresponsible behavior from others.
However, if we stay in the moment and just enjoy the nice things about the experience and look past the cancers, it’s at least better than remaining a prisoner at home.
When we got back to Lytle Creek at around 2pm, Tahia finally took the time to really enjoy playing in the water, which got up to her thighs. At one point, she fell into the water and got upset that she wet her clothes and her hat.
We easily could have lingered here much longer, especially if Wendy brought her kids here, which Tahia was really wishing had happened.
But she was doing Eaton Canyon Falls, which I knew was a zoo.
Well at least, we have a reference point for a place to play and linger with the possibility of social distancing except for the waterfall. Besides, we never knew that this was such a nice spot for hanging out in the Summertime.
Anyways, after having our fill of our brief moment in Lytle Creek, Tahia had her fill and was looking forward to going to my parents’ place to play with her cousins.
So we headed back up to the familiar trailhead parking or pullouts and walked alongside the road towards where we parked.
By about 2:20pm, we made it back to the car, where it looked like there were quite a few more cars parked further down the road than us, which further illustrated that we must have showed up right before the peak of visitation.
Five minutes later, we headed south to Rancho Cucamonga for a late Chipotle lunch at 2:50pm.
They had outdoor eating there, and we took advantage of it so I guess out in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, maybe they didn’t quite have the same restrictions as what we saw in Los Angeles County.
Eventually by about 4:30pm, we arrived at my parents’ place where Tahia finally got to spend another weekend there.
I was quite surprised by the amount of traffic going south on the I-15 and heading west on the 60, and the traffic looked even worse heading in the other direction!
It was almost as if the whole COVID-19 thing wasn’t happening, and while this was all a worrying development, I guess this was the reality of what things would be like going forward.
It’s like if you want to participate in the world economic party, you’ll do so at risk to yourself or your family. Even at my day job, they’re transitioning us back from telecommuting and I’m part of that first wave.
I don’t know what the rush was, but apparently they think they’re doing enough to protect the workers.
Unfortunately, without on-site testing and filtration systems to ensure the re-circulated air isn’t re-circulating virus DNA, then we’re really rolling the dice with safety in the name of profit.
Anyways, at our parents’ place, it was nice catching up with my parents who seemed to be doing well despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
That said, we were concerned about the rising hospitalizations around the nation, and some states appeared to stop reporting them as if that’s going to make things any better.
Obviously with things opening up, it seemed like we really don’t have things under control as a country, and I wondered if that will make things even harder for Americans wishing to escape even harder for others will continue to shut their borders to us.
It was a frustrating development, and I guess we finally got to a point where irresponsible and unsustainable actions of a certain demographic of people affect everyone else.
We see it in microcosm at our local waterfalls, but even on a macro scale, we see that such liberties being taken away by our own undoing prevailing.
I feel like we need waterfalls now more than ever but even those places are under threat.
I guess we’ll have to see how things play out, but it’s definitely a scary time.
At 5:45pm, Julie and I made it back home. Without Tahia at home, maybe that might relax Julie a little bit for the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, I might at least enjoy one last weekend before confronting the battlefield of a re-opening economy with a huge safety risk.
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